Homelessness in Australia–My research and thoughts.


The issue of homelessness is Australia is a strong statement of the failure of our nation collectively to look after those who are often the most vulnerable of Australians. This week is National Homeless Persons Week – 6th to the 12th of August 2012. I have been doing some reading on the issues and on some broader issues related to homelessness. Here is summary of my research mixed with some of my thoughts:-


I attended a rally in July of 2011 on homelessness and the speakers were people who a had been homeless in the past. One of the things that they said that deeply impacted me is they said, when you are homeless, you feel invisible because no one will make eye contact with you. And so you can go through the whole day surrounded by people but no one looks at you and no one acknowledges your presence.

WOW. From that day on, every homeless person I see on the streets, I acknowledge. I say hello to them and smile at them. I may not be able to impact their situation. But I can warm their heart and let them know that they are not invisible.


In 1996  according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics, there were 99,900 people homeless.

In 2006 that number had grown to 118,000 people. That is an increase of 18,100 or 35 Australians are made homeless every week. Considering those who in that period found accommodation, the actual number of new people struggling with homelessness would be substantially more than that. But based on the 18,100 people, thats 5 new people everyday. This is such a sad statistic.

Of those 118,000, 46,058 were females.

In the 3 months leading up to September 2011 more than 91,000 Australians seeking assistance from specialist homeless services. One in five of those people were aged under ten.

20% were under 10. That is just not acceptable.

There is more to homelessness than rooflessness. Other issues to consider:-

  • Self Confidence Issues
  • Safety
  • Physical Health
  • Mental Health
  • Emotional Pain
  • Loneliness
  • Suicide Attempts
  • Deep hopelessness
  • Financial Issues
  • Discrimination
  • Drug and Alcohol Misuse

There are three different levels of defining homelessness

  • Primary is sleeping rough – under bridges, in cars, on park benches
  • Secondary is staying with Family or friends. The colloquial term is couch surfing.
  • Tertiary – living in insecure accomodation like a boarding house.

Of the people who are homeless in the Illawarra and Shoalhaven, this is the breakup:-

  • Male alone 36%
  • Female alone 32%
  • Females with children 26%
  • Couple with children 3%
  • Couple no children 2%
  • Male with children 1%

Some of the major cause of homelessness:

  • Women & families at risk of Domestic violence
  • Girls escaping sexual abuse
  • Breakdown of the family
  • People with mental issues
  • Young people who are “couch” surfers
  • Lower income families who are affected by the lack of affordable housing.
  • Alcohol or drug abuse.
  • Financial difficulty
  • Small percentage due to gambling issues.

Aboriginal people are an overly represented people group amongst the homeless.

Often in discussions related to homelessness we don’t bring into the equation some of the significant culture ills that plague Australian society.

1) Alcohol

  • Alcohol missue costs $36 billion dollars a year
  • Over 10 million Australians experience some negative effects from consumers of Alcohol
  • Almost 70,000 alcohol related assaults happen each year.
  • 24,000 cases classified as domestic violence.
  • 1 in 4 Australians were a victim of alcohol-related verbal abuse in 2010
  • 13 percent were made to feel fearful by someone under the influence of alcohol in 2010
  • 4.5 percent of Australians aged 14 years or older had been physically abused by someone under the influence of alcohol (AIHW 2008).

2) Gambling

  • Around $19 billion was spent by consumers on Australian gambling products in. 2008-09. When the Federal Government recently gave out Carbon Tax compensation payments via the Family Payment system, revenues from Poker Machines across Sydney spiked.
  • Gambling comprised 3.1 per cent of household consumption expenditure in 2008-09,
  • The surge in expenditure growth in the 1990s was largely due to the liberalisation of gaming.
  • Gambling expenditure is dominated by electronic gaming machines – Poker Machines. – Australians spent around $10.5 billion on Pokies in clubs and hotels and around $1.4 billion on EGMs in casinos in 2008-09.
  • Australia has the 53rd largest population in the world but is home to over 20% of the world’s pokies, a statistic which goes some way to explaining why playing the pokies is something of a national past time.

  • Australia houses around 2.8 percent of the world’s gambling machines, coming in behind Japan, the US, Italy, the UK, Spain and Germany. In terms of number of people per machines, Australia ranks tenth with 108 people per machine. Monaco tops the charts with 22 people per machine

3) Marriage

In 1977, Lionel Murphy QC pushed to have a no fault quickie divorce come into law. Over the last 40 years, the commitment that couples make to each other at the marriage alter has become something of national joke. Additionally, the constant breakdown of marriage has resulted in a significant increase in defacto relationships. It is my opinion, that as society reduces the sanctity of marriage and the strength of traditional families, there is an increase in homelessness as marriages and families breakdown. The pain that this causes is beyond words. Why does no one in the homelessness debate bring this up.

That’s right. Its not political correct. Maybe Lionel Murphy’s little social experiment has been a colossal failure.

Personal Experience

In February of this year, I walked down Skid Row in LA. Here is my blog of the experience. I was deeply impacted by the few hours I was there. 6500 people living on the streets within a 5 block radius. Over 1000 register sex offenders live there too. Imagine the issues with child sexual assault.


In July of 2011, I was involved in the St Vincent De Paul CEO Sleepout. This involved me sleeping out on the streets of Sydney in the middle of winter. Now whilst I dont think that that even comes close to reality for homeless people, it certainly gave me a bit of an idea of what is like in winter in Sydney for someone that is not sleeping with a roof over their head.


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Categories: Australian, Current Affairs, Life

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1 reply

  1. I’d jhave loved to have done the sleep out myself did many women go? Our CEO from Stellar Victoria John Hollingsworth did it and Victoria is generally pretty cold physically speaking. I used to freak when it came to people in authority.. still try to avoid them a bit want to know what Jesus did well when stellar first opened is was sitting near the then manager and so i went to the opposite side of the centre know what happened? God relocated the office to right behind me. I went to one of the stellar annual dinners (never been to ne since by the way) they accidentally seated me on the table with corporate i don’t think i said one word all night serves me right for being a chicken i guess don’t tell me God don’t have a sense of humour cause mate i KNOW He does. It’s like when i went to Scott Hansys church for the first time what was he preaching on David and his five stones oh crap and here i am sitting at stellar and what can i see the David Jones sign only the word Jones was obscured by a tree how convenient a couple of months looking at that thing and i HAD to move… CHICKEN i know Peter i know.

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